A vote of no confidence in Scotland’s deputy first minister has been scheduled for Wednesday, but already looks set to fail as the Scottish Greens say they will not support it.
The Scottish Tories tabled the motion two weeks ago as a threat to the position of John Swinney.
They hoped he would release legal advice given to the Scottish Government before it decided to concede the judicial review brought by Alex Salmond after its botched handling of complaints against him.
MSPs twice voted to compel the Scottish Government to release the documents.
Swinney released some of the legal advice, but not to the satisfaction of the Scottish Tories, whose leader Douglas Ross decided to press on with his bid to oust the deputy first minister.
The vote has been scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, but within minutes of the announcement of it going ahead, the Scottish Greens destroyed any hopes of removing Swinney, describing the vote as “opportunistic political theatre”.
Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “The Scottish Greens will always defend the integrity of the Scottish Parliament, and that is why we backed the call for John Swinney to release evidence that the harassment committee and parliament had asked for.
“That evidence clearly showed the Scottish Government had failed the women who came forward, and this, rather than opportunistic political theatre, should be the focus.
“The Tories called it a screeching U-turn last week, but this week they still want a political scalp to show for it.
“The evidence provided cannot be both the bombshell revelation they claimed, and at the same time inadequate to draw conclusions on the issues that matter.”
Harvie added: “It’s clear from this naked attempt to undermine our democratic institutions, and from the line of questioning from their committee members, that the Scottish Conservatives have no interest in making sure women are supported coming forward with complaints in the future.
“For them, this vote of no confidence is a pathetic political game just weeks ahead of an election in which they have nothing positive to offer the people of Scotland.
“The Scottish Greens will remain focused on setting out a vision for making Scotland a better place.”
In response, Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross said: “Any time John Swinney is in trouble, the Greens set aside all principles and ride to his rescue.
“The Greens have shown again that they will let the SNP away with anything, even ignoring votes of the Scottish Parliament.
“Their cause always comes first – and that’s independence, not the environment. Their true colours are not green, they are SNP yellow.
“Patrick Harvie is back in his happy place – Nicola Sturgeon’s pocket. The Greens have shown they are too weak to stand up to the SNP and support the position they already set out in two votes of the Scottish Parliament.
“The case for the vote of no confidence in John Swinney is clear to any impartial observer. We can no longer trust him to do the right thing. He has abused his power to cover up crucial evidence.
“He said he would respect two votes of the Scottish Parliament – he didn’t. He ignored them entirely until his job was on the line. Even now, he is still hiding evidence from around ten legal consultations.
“He claimed he had released all key legal advice – only to wait a few days and release more. He blatantly withheld crucial evidence until after Nicola Sturgeon’s evidence session.
“We are supposed to accept that no notes were taken at a pivotal meeting involving the First Minister, senior lawyers and the permanent secretary. That is ludicrous and beyond belief for any fair-minded person.”
A spokesman for the deputy first minister said the motion was more about “grubby Tory politicking”, adding “they were always going to push this to a vote regardless of what information the committee received”.
He continued: “The Scottish Government has taken the exceptional step of publishing in full the key legal advice on this issue – something that no previous government in Scotland has done.
“That means the committee has been given the legal advice it asked for, and the Tories’ claims to the contrary are baseless.
“People across Scotland want their politicians to concentrate on recovery from the pandemic and the other crucial issues facing them, and they will be utterly unimpressed by the Tories’ blatant bid to put politics ahead of everything else.”
The Scottish Lib Dems have said they will vote in favour of the motion, with leader Willie Rennie saying Swinney must be “reprimanded” for his behaviour.
“The deputy first minister’s shabby treatment of parliament cannot be ignored,” he said.
Rennie added: “Anyone who values this parliament must vote to reprimand the deputy first minister’s behaviour.”